Seats have changed hands in Al-Bashir's cabinet but the only apparent
difference is that the forces of disintegration are gaining strength, warns
22 - 28 December 2011
The new government in North Sudan has contradicted all the promises made by
the governing National Congress Part (NCP) of Omar Al-Bashir, disappointing
a nation that has been waiting for meaningful leadership since the secession
of South Sudan on 9 July.
Instead of a trimmed down but broad-based government, the NCP has maintained
a tight grip on an oversized government of over 66 ministers, state
ministers, and advisors. The mere size of the government is likely to put
considerable pressure on the Sudanese budget at a time when the economy,
deprived of more than three-fourths of its oil revenues, is tumbling.
Instead of bringing new blood into the government, as he had promised,
Al-Bashir kept many of the old faces in place. NCP keep saying that they
brought 14 new parties into the government. But this is only a facade for an
executive that is totally under their control. The new parties are all minor
and weak, which means that the NCP -- the party blamed for the woes
inflicted on Sudan for over 20 years -- is the only one calling the shots.
The NCP holds all the vital portfolios, with the interior, foreign, defence,
treasury, and oil ministries under its control. Awad Al-Gaz, Abdel-Rahim
Hussein, Ali Karti, and many of the old guards have held on to their
It is hard to see how the NCP intends to change its policies with such a
government in place. It is hard to imagine how Sudan will find a way to
address its urgent problems, including the secessionist demands in other
parts of the country, with the same men in power.
Only one major party, the Democratic Unionist Party of Mohamed Othman
Al-Mirghani, agreed to take part in the government, and suffered internal
divisions as a result. The Ummah Party has turned down an offer to be part
of the government.
However, the sons of the leaders of the Ummah Party and the DUP,
Abdel-Rahman Al-Sadeq Al-Mahdi and Jaafar Mohamed Al-Mirghani, have been
named advisers to Omar Al-Bashir in a move that failed to secure any support
for the NCP. Critics have accused not only the president but his two new
advisers of insincerity.
Al-Mahdi's appointment was particularly odd, as his party decided to stay
out of the government. Even the Islamists, traditionally the main supporters
of the NCP, seem dissatisfied with the government, whose policies are likely
to shape the future of Sudan for many years to come.
The government's main task is to address the economic crisis, cut spending,
stamp out corruption, and end the country's reliance on oil. A diversified
economy could help relieve Sudan's current woes, but not if the current
class and regional tensions are allowed to persist.
For the past ten years, the gap between the rich and poor has been growing
steadily. Some of the recent confrontations between the youths and NCP
officials signalled the public dissatisfaction with the unequal distribution
of wealth in the country. The young Sudanese are making it clear that they
want a more equitable and democratic society.
The armed conflicts underway in Darfur, Kordofan, and the Blue Nile must
also be taken as an indication that national reconciliation should be a top
A few weeks ago, armed groups in North Sudan formed an alliance called the
Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF). The SRF, which called for a no-fly zone
on government forces, says that it aims to topple the regime of Omar
Al-Bashir. SRF officials accuse Al-Bashir's regime of blocking humanitarian
relief to their areas.
South Sudan remains a problem. Many fear that continued border clashes could
spark off a new war. Oil, the main source of income for both North and South
Sudan, remains the main cause of friction between the two countries.
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Received on Mon Dec 26 2011 - 16:04:24 EST